Firm Blamed Over Loss of 5 Homes in Collapse

Six families were left homeless after a section of the Tonle Sap riverbank in Phnom Penh collapsed on Sunday, causing their houses to plunge into the river. Local villagers claim construction work at a neighboring property owned by the Vattanac company is to blame.

At about 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, five stilted homes in Russei Keo district’s Kilometr Pram Muoy commune sank into the Tonle Sap River when a chunk of land measuring about 20 meters by 10 meters gave way, villager Or Mom said Monday.

Five houses sink into the Tonle Sap River on Monday, following the collapse of about 20 meters of riverbank in Phnom Penh's Russei Keo district on Sunday.
Five houses sink into the Tonle Sap River on Monday, following the collapse of about 20 meters of riverbank in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Sunday.

“When I was nearly at my home, on my way back from the market, the house collapsed instantly and my children jumped out of it,” she said.

Ms. Mom and her fellow villagers blame compacting work about 10 days earlier at a neighboring property allegedly owned by Vattanac, a local conglomerate that invests in real estate. She said the work at the Vattanac site made the earth shake, which caused cracks to open up in her house. She said she complained to the company’s workers last week, but that they did not give her any meaningful help.

“They told me nothing would happen if I filled the cracks with cement,” she said.

After the houses collapsed on Sunday, 10 of the affected villagers protested in front of the property they say is owned by Vattanac.

“Now we have no house to live in, so we asked Vattanac, through the commune chief, to give compensation of about $7,000, whether our house is big or small,” Ms. Mom said, adding that she and the other affected families were currently renting rooms in a nearby building as a temporary measure.

A woman inspects a collapsed piece of land along the bank of the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Commune chief Sok Sambath, who said that about 10 families lived in the affected area, said he did not believe the incident was caused by the construction but that he had passed on the compensation request to the company.

“The houses on the riverbank collapsed because of the way they were built…. They built the homes where they wanted. We never allowed them to build anything there. But I already told the representative of the construction site owned by Vattanac [about the requests] for the $7,000 compensation,” he said.

Vattanac representatives could not be reached for comment Monday. Another one of the company’s construction sites along Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay badly damaged a block of colonial-era buildings in 2011.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the collapse took place in the Mekong River. It took place in the Tonle Sap River.

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